Michigan Association of School Administrators

Service | Leadership | Collaboration | Excellence

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Scot Graden, Saline
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview
Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor


MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

What does Globally Ready mean?

Written by Scot Graden on Dec 08, 2016

In this month’s edition of Educational Leadership, author Marc Tucker looks at the impact that globalization, automation, and the improved skills of workers in other countries are having on the United States economy.  Tucker’s piece, “Globally Ready or Not?” explains how the world has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Businesses in the 1970s that did not adapt to the changing global climate went out of business. As one can imagine, the overall impact does not bode well for students that graduate without a “21st Century” skill set.  Re-thinking education to produce students that are ready for the challenges of this new global society is a direction that we have felt for some time in Southeast Michigan and one that as a district, we have worked to address over the last 5+ years.

The article does offer some suggestions about what we, The Saline Area Schools, can do to help prepare students to compete in a global economy.  Interestingly, the points that Tucker makes are consistent with the Strategic Framework and Learner Profile for Saline Area Schools. Here are a few of the points:

  • Integrate academic and technical learning. Tucker notes, “The curriculum that students need must create a constant interplay between academics and application; problems that arise in the course of application give rise to the questions addressed in the academics, and the constructs learned in the academics are explored in application.”
  • Focus on continuous, deep learning. Developing students that are lifelong learners and critical thinkers is essential. “Being able to analyze and synthesize will require students to know a lot about the material they’re analyzing and synthesizing.” says Tucker.
  • Integrate academic and technical learning.  Deep, well structured and authentic project-based learning experiences can help in this area.  We need true projects that push our students, not just “activities”.
  • Develop ethics. We need to think of ourselves as being responsible for the development of each student in a process owned by the entire staff.  Students need to be able to do the right thing when nobody’s watching and experience leadership first-hand.
  • Cultural competence. Saline graduates need to be able to work and interact effectively with people of all cultures. Cultural competence involves understanding and appropriately responding to the many nuances that define “culture,”  including cultural variables—including ability, intellect, age, ethnicity, experience, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

Students develop and hone these skills over time, meaning that educators, parents, and community members must adopt and value these attributes. Developing the best prepared, academically competent, technologically proficient, and globally astute workers will take a monumental effort from all of us; this generation will fill jobs that do not yet exist. What a fascinating time for all of us! Saline students will lead the way.



The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust West Michigan's own 126th Infantry into war

Written by David Britton on Dec 07, 2016
When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, West Michigan's own 126th Infantry had been on active duty for more than a year, training in Louisiana as part of the great call-up of the National Guard for training purposes.

Only now, the training was over.

The 126th on parade while training in LouisianaOn Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, plunging the 126th Infantry into war for the fifth time in its short history. The regiment was ordered to establish security around vital installations in the Louisiana and Texas areas to guard against any sabotage attempts. It was the First Regiment in the Red Arrow Division to be placed on war duty. This second tour of duty as “homeland defense” continued on until the regiment left in February.

In late December, the Thirty-second Division was notified that it was being designated as part of Force Magnet and would be heading to Northern Ireland. The division was given priority for replacements and distribution of equipment. It was estimated the division would sail for its destination sometime around July 1942. Two months later, the Thirty-second Division was reorganized into a more modern triangular division centered on three infantry regiments (Michigan’s 125th Infantry was detached from the division and assigned to a coastal guard mission). Other changes included the reorganization of the existing artillery regiments into battalions.

Monument to the 126th Infantry located at Camp Grayling, MichiganThe Thirty-second Red Arrow Division was among the first units ordered overseas after Pearl Harbor along with the Thirty-fourth and Thirty-seventh. On February 1, 1942, under command of Colonel Lawrence A. Quinn, the Grand Rapids Guard moved to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and underwent replacement of personnel to bring the regiment to full strength. Initially thinking it was staging for service in the European Theater, the Guard was surprised to hear on March 25 that plans had changed and the division was being sent to Australia to face the Japanese. In April the regiment boarded troop trains and headed to San Francisco, California, where it was billeted in the San Francisco Cow Palace. There the regiment picked up a number of replacements that had just completed basic training.

On the eve of departure from San Francisco for Australia, Colonel Quinn addressed the regiment:
Officers and men of the 126th Infantry, we are about to depart on a most important mission.  One not only of national and international, but also of world importance.  Our path will not be smooth.  On the contrary it will be beset with many obstacles; we shall suffer many hardships; we shall face many grave dangers.  Many of us will pay the supreme sacrifice.  Such is the duty of a soldier; such is the responsibility and privilege of every citizen.  It is fitting and proper on such an occasion to ask Divine strength and guidance.  We will now be led in prayer by our Regimental Chaplain. This formation may prove to be a very important incident in the history of this grand, old outfit.  We may never again have an opportunity to parade as a Regiment. For the past year and a half we have been working hard—training in marksmanship, musketry, maneuvers, marches; learning to shoot straight, march far and well, and to maneuver fast and cleverly; learning to care for our health, our arms and our equipment under all conditions.  It has not been easy.  There have been difficulties.  But difficulties make opportunities.  We have made mistakes.  But we have tried not to make the same ones a second time. At this moment we parade here—not a perfect organization; not a perfect war machine; not a perfect team—but rather a diamond in the rough.  We have much to do in the way of training to attain the goal we have set for ourselves—a rugged, powerful, hard-hitting, fast maneuvering infantry team.  At every opportunity we shall carry on with our training. But what we lack in perfection we more than make up for in esprit de corps, determination, team play, loyalty, devotion to duty and country, and plain unadulterated intestinal fortitude. In a few hours we shall be on our way.  Our destination is a secret; and, except for curiosity, is unimportant.  What is important, however, is the fact that we are on our way to meet the enemy.  War is a grim business.  It is a killer business.  To some peoples in some parts of the world it is an old business.  But to us it is new.  In battle you go forth to kill or be killed—there is no half way point. We must school ourselves to accept this.  As we approach closer and closer to the sound of the guns we must develop that killer instinct, which is so necessary to success on the field of battle. Should you experience difficulty developing this desire to kill—you have but to recall what we are fighting for:  Our homes, our loved ones, our freedom, the right to live as we please.  Our country was founded on such principles; our forefathers fought, bled and died to retain them, as did this Regiment in 1861, 1898 and 1918.  In the future, if necessary, our children will fight for them. Today, now, it is our privilege and duty to do so. Our Nation and our loved ones are depending on us; they have placed their faith, their hope; their trust in us.  Let us resolve here today that we shall not fail them. On April 18, 1942, the 126th boarded the S.S. Lurline, a luxury liner that had been converted to transport duty, and four days later sailed for the South Pacific. There, it would be the spearhead of General Douglas MacArthur's road back to the Philippines.

Brief summary of the 126th Infantry's service during World War II. By the end of the war in 1945, of all the divisions under General Douglas MacArthur’s command, the Thirty-second “Red Arrow” spent more combat time, earned the most Distinguished Unit Citations (14), won the most Medals of Honor (11, three of which were members of the 126th Infantry), and paid the highest price in killed and wounded (7,268).  Throughout it all, the Grand Rapids Guard's 126th Infantry was there every step of the way.

Pfc. Dirk Vlug of the 126th Infantry returns to Grand Rapids as a hero after receiving his Medal of Honor from President Truman
Note: Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the governor mobilized a company of Michigan State Troops at the Grand Rapids Armory to guard the Kent County Airport, where it remained until June 1942. The Troops were volunteers organized to stand in for the 126th Infantry and other units from around the state that had left for the war. Many of them were veterans of World War I.
Source: Britten, David G., Lieutenant Colonel. Courage Without Fear: The Story of the Grand Rapids Guard. Xlibris, 2004


Win the championship? Not a priority

Written by Steve Matthews on Dec 07, 2016
In schools we love to measure things. Grades. Attendance. Test scores.  GPAs. Class rank. Graduation rate. SAT scores. 

In Michigan we have created a Top-to-Bottom Ranking that, using state test scores, assigns a rank to every school in Michigan. Schools in the bottom five percent in this ranking could be considered for state sanctions up to and including closure.

With all this focus on measuring, clearly, test performance has become a big deal.

But should it be?

I ask this question because I recently came across a question and answer session between Gregg Popovich, Cornel West, and students at Sam Houston High School in Texas.
Cornel West and Gregg Popovich answering questions from San Houston High School students.

As a professional basketball coach Gregg Popovich works in a high stress environment. As a coach he has led his team to five NBA championships. He not only understand the importance of winning, he is a winner.

But when asked if he was going to win another championship, Popovich gave a rather interesting answer. 

“Win the championship? I don’t know, but it’s not a priority in my life. I’d be much happier if I knew that my players were going to make society better, who had good families and who took care of the people around them. I’d get more satisfaction out of that than a title. I would love to win another championship, and we’ll work our butts off to try and do that. But we have to want more than success in our jobs. That’s why we’re here. We’re here so you’ll understand that you can overcome obstacles by being prepared and if you educate the hell out of yourself. If you become respectful, disciplined people in this world, you can fight anything. If you join with each other and you believe in yourself and each other, that’s what matters. That’s what we want to relay to you all: that we believe that about you or we wouldn’t be here.”

Teams are judged by their wins and losses. Coaches are hired and fired based on their wins and losses. So clearly wins and losses are important.

But there is something more important than wins and losses. At least according to Gregg Popovich. Making society better. Creating good families. Taking care of the people around you. Those things are more important than wins and losses.

Schools are in the same boat. At some level I am judged by how well our students perform. What are their M-STEP scores? How many are accepted to the college of their choice? What are students SAT scores? What is our graduation rate?

Ultimately I will either keep my job or be fired if those "scores" are not good enough.

But the real outcomes, the results that matter the most, cannot be measured in one score, one test result, one number that is published in the paper.

The most important outcomes for a school district, for my school district, focus on creating a district that prepares our students to make society better, helping students learn to take care of the people around them, focusing on the skills needed to build good, strong families.

To be clear, I believe that educating our students can help create students who will make society better. That is why we spend time building a strong curriculum, preparing our teachers to work with our diverse student population, building good facilities, and providing up-to-date technology.

To also be clear, just because a person has high test scores does not mean that they will make society better, care for the people around them, or build good, strong families. That's why we also invest in programs like the Leader in Me, anti-bullying programs, teaching our staff how to manage conflict, providing extra-curricular clubs and sports.

I believe our district builds people who can contribute to our society. High test scores? Important, but not the priority.

Win the championship? Not a priority

Written by Steve Matthews on Dec 07, 2016
In schools we love to measure things. Grades. Attendance. Test scores.  GPAs. Class rank. Graduation rate. SAT scores. 

In Michigan we have created a Top-to-Bottom Ranking that, using state test scores, assigns a rank to every school in Michigan. Schools in the bottom five percent in this ranking could be considered for state sanctions up to and including closure.

With all this focus on measuring, clearly, test performance has become a big deal.

But should it be?

I ask this question because I recently came across a question and answer session between Gregg Popovich, Cornel West, and students at Sam Houston High School in Texas.
Cornel West and Gregg Popovich answering questions from San Houston High School students.

As a professional basketball coach Gregg Popovich works in a high stress environment. As a coach he has led his team to five NBA championships. He not only understand the importance of winning, he is a winner.

But when asked if he was going to win another championship, Popovich gave a rather interesting answer. 

“Win the championship? I don’t know, but it’s not a priority in my life. I’d be much happier if I knew that my players were going to make society better, who had good families and who took care of the people around them. I’d get more satisfaction out of that than a title. I would love to win another championship, and we’ll work our butts off to try and do that. But we have to want more than success in our jobs. That’s why we’re here. We’re here so you’ll understand that you can overcome obstacles by being prepared and if you educate the hell out of yourself. If you become respectful, disciplined people in this world, you can fight anything. If you join with each other and you believe in yourself and each other, that’s what matters. That’s what we want to relay to you all: that we believe that about you or we wouldn’t be here.”

Teams are judged by their wins and losses. Coaches are hired and fired based on their wins and losses. So clearly wins and losses are important.

But there is something more important than wins and losses. At least according to Gregg Popovich. Making society better. Creating good families. Taking care of the people around you. Those things are more important than wins and losses.

Schools are in the same boat. At some level I am judged by how well our students perform. What are their M-STEP scores? How many are accepted to the college of their choice? What are students SAT scores? What is our graduation rate?

Ultimately I will either keep my job or be fired if those "scores" are not good enough.

But the real outcomes, the results that matter the most, cannot be measured in one score, one test result, one number that is published in the paper.

The most important outcomes for a school district, for my school district, focus on creating a district that prepares our students to make society better, helping students learn to take care of the people around them, focusing on the skills needed to build good, strong families.

To be clear, I believe that educating our students can help create students who will make society better. That is why we spend time building a strong curriculum, preparing our teachers to work with our diverse student population, building good facilities, and providing up-to-date technology.

To also be clear, just because a person has high test scores does not mean that they will make society better, care for the people around them, or build good, strong families. That's why we also invest in programs like the Leader in Me, anti-bullying programs, teaching our staff how to manage conflict, providing extra-curricular clubs and sports.

I believe our district builds people who can contribute to our society. High test scores? Important, but not the priority.

Infrastructure or Education? The looming battles in Michigan for adequate and equitable funding

Written by David Britton on Dec 07, 2016
In response to crumbling roads and the Flint water crisis, Governor Rick Snyder created the 21st Century Infrastructure Commission to conduct an inventory of needs and project future costs. The commission delivered its report on November 30 and the governor released it to the public yesterday. You can read the Executive Summary for yourself as well as the full report, if so inclined. Most of us have simply skipped to the part where they estimate what it will cost the taxpayers over the next 30 to 50 years.
The report concluded that $59 billion over the next twenty-years was needed and should be seen as an "investment:"Investing in our infrastructure—our roads and bridges; water, sewer, and storm water systems; and energy and communications networks—is essential for ensuring 1) public health and safety, 2) quality of life, and 3) sustainable economic growth for all Michigan residents.  (p. 117)Of course inflation and additional deterioration of our infrastructure is likely to send that cost even higher.

What's interesting is that the same "investment" rationale is easily applied to the need for better public education in Michigan. And it just so happens, the legislature released a report this past June (three months late) titled Michigan Education Finance Study (June 2016), to determine if schools are funded at a level of EQUITY that ensures each and every student has a chance to be successful when measured by state-imposed standards and tests.

In short, the study concluded a resounding NO and recommended the following:

  1. An increase in the minimum foundation allowance (the per-pupil funding provided to most school districts) of approximately $1,100 per student to meet adequacy standards.
  2. An additional 30% increase in funding for each at-risk student.
  3. An additional 40% increase in funding for English language learner (ELL) students.
  4. A method of better tracking of special education expenditures from all sources to determine equity costs for this category.
To estimate the investment necessary to provide at least an equitable education system that can better meet the 21st century needs of our students (and our state), consider the following student counts for last school year:
Total number of enrolled K-12 students = 1,540,005Approximate increase of $1,100 per student = $1.4 billion
Total number of at-risk K-12 students = 713,295Approximate increase of 30% (after the additional $1,100) = $1.8 billion
Total number of ELL K-12 students = 90,121Approximate increase of 40% (after the additional $1,100) = $306 million
Please note that these are simply low-end estimations only. However, it's plain to see that Michigan should be investing in public education at a much higher level than it does now. Approximately $3.5 billion more per year in fact! Ironically, that is nearly the same as the recommendation by the infrastructure commission.
Combined, this investment shortfall is roughly $7 billion per year. Sounds incredible and perhaps impossible but according to state agencies that deal in these kind of numbers, Michigan is currently undertaxed to the tune of $10 billion according to the Section 26 state revenue limits.
My fear, however, is the rush to improve infrastructure while continuing to ignore the educational needs of our children.